Early in her career, photographer Rebecca Winter unexpectedly set the art world on fire with her images known as the “Kitchen Counter” series. Women, young and old, related to the photos’ ability to capture the essence of their everyday lives. The most famous picture “Still Life with Bread Crumbs”—and also author Anna Quindlen’s title for her novel—had thus far funded a comfortable life for Rebecca, her son, and her aging parents.
Lady Jacquetta inherited the gift of Second Sight from a long-ago river goddess, or so the family legend went. What is obviously true is that she does get glimpses of what will happen to her and those around her. For example, Joan, the innocent, brave peasant girl her family has held captive to trade to the English, is almost certainly doomed. As for her own lot, the beautiful teenager who will be called The Lady of the Rivers has captured the attention of a powerful man twice her age and in time she will be his—but not as she imagines.
“We laugh and we cry.”
In Tamar Myers’ The Girl Who Married an Eagle, there is a lot of both.
Julia Elaine Newton has come all the way from Ohio to the Belgian Congo to save souls and teach English to young girls who are runaway child brides. She’s really quite pleased with herself and thinks she knows what she’s doing. It’s 1959, and her spotless cotton circle skirt is just the thing to wear in Africa, comfortable and fresh, or it is until it becomes blood-soaked while she tends a future student who has been attacked by hyenas. Exquisite, brilliant, ten-year-old Buakane has run away on her marriage night from Chief Eagle, a man nearly four times her age. She is his 23rd wife.
In Alice Hoffman’s The Red Garden, Hallie Brady arrives in the wilderness near Hightop Mountain in 1750. Nobody white had settled this part of Massachusetts before, and the native people who camped nearby vowed that no man would find happiness west of the mountain. Teenaged, English-born Hallie comes with her not-good-for-much husband and a couple of other families he has duped into following him in circles for days before winding up in the shadow of the mountain just as the November snows are settling in.
Promising young archaeologist Verity Grey ventured to the wilds of Scotland for a job interview little knowing that she was leaving behind her secure London flat for encounters with ghostly visions and the threat of madness in Susanna Kearsley’s Shadowy Horses.
In A Vision of Light, by Judith Merkle Riley, Margaret of Ashbury is a rather ordinary albeit quite pretty woman—ordinary that is, except for the Voice she sometimes hears and the visions she sometimes sees. One day, the Voice tells Margaret that she should write a book about the extraordinary things that have happened to her. She argues with the Voice… she is a woman so who would listen to her, and what is more, like nearly everybody, she does not know how to write. And further, she has not done any great deeds worth writing about.
The Voice answered:
“Put in it what you have seen. There is nothing wrong with being a woman, and doing ordinary things. Sometimes small deeds can show big ideas. As for writing, do as others do: get someone to write it for you.”
“Voice,” I said, “how do I know you are from God, and not the Devil, tempting me into something foolish?”
“Margaret,” answered the Voice, “isn’t it a good idea? God never gives bad ones.”
What better way to start my summer reading than by immersing myself in The River of No Return, a fantasy/romance/adventure/mystery in which Time is a river where humans can move up and down its path to the future and the past. The author, Bee Ridgway—a historian at Bryn Mawr, has meticulously researched the Regency Period. It is a love story and a time-travel adventure with well-developed characters, but part of the fun of reading this novel is in its unique historical details of the Regency period.
Mr. Ali is a bored gentleman, a bit of a perfectionist, and—much to his wife’s chagrin—recently retired and constantly underfoot. Mr. Ali clearly needs something to do with his cleverness. His rather small house with carefully tended garden and comfortable veranda is a beautiful, small haven in the heart of a busy Indian city, but it is not enough to hold the interest of a man so distinguished and wise. And so, The Marriage Bureau for Rich People began in the Alis’ front room.
In its first chapters, Sweet Tooth begins like Dickens’ David Copperfield. Serena Frome (rhymes with Plume) tells of her unremarkable childhood and how she ends up working as a spy for Britain’s MI5. With her blonde and beautiful looks, she is a bit of a Bond Girl and wreaks havoc on the men around her.
A good all-around student, Serena devours novels and wants to do an English degree in a small university, but her housewife mother, in an uncharacteristic fit of feminism, tells her she has a chance of making something of herself by going to Cambridge and doing “maths.”
Baby's in Black drops you into a smoke-filled club in Hamburg. Despite the German locale, the band on stage is wailing in English about doing the "hippy hippy shake". Everyone's moving except for the bassist, who looks cooler than James Dean.
The band has been playing for hours, and they will continue for several hours more, as per their contract. They pop pills to stay awake for that long. The group is the Beatles. The year is 1960. The bassist is Stu Sutcliffe.